Nikos | Sermon (September 15) by Rev. Robert McDowell

Original Posting At http://pastorrobert-nikos.blogspot.com/2019/09/sermon-september-15-by-rev-robert.html

     Almost. It’s a sad word in anybody’s dictionary. It keeps company with expressions like “if only” and if you’re from the South, “near ‘bout.”

     Almost is a word that speaks of missed opportunities and fumbled chances.

     Tim KcKee was edged out for first place in the Olympic 400 meter race by two-thousandths of a second. He almost won a gold medal.

     Christian author, Max Lucado offers these sad statements that revolve around “almost.”

     “He almost got it together.” “We were almost able to work it out.” “He almost made it to the big leagues.”

     In our Acts scripture reading, we are introduced to an “almost” kind of guy, King Agrippa who was one of Herod’s sons and the Roman procurator of Judea who was the puppet king the Romans allowed to sit on the throne.

     The Apostle Paul has been spreading the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the Roman Empire and here in our Acts scripture reading, he is nearing the end of his ministry. He is on trial before King Agrippa.

     Since Paul was a Roman citizen, he would eventually appeal to Caesar and be sent to Rome where he would be martyred; but first, Paul was granted his request for a private audience with Agrippa.

     Paul appealed to something that both he and Agrippa agreed upon – the Jewish prophets. And Paul used this appeal as an opportunity to invite Agrippa to follow Jesus. Paul’s purpose wasn’t to refute the charges against him but simply give a testimony to the faith that drove him. 

     Now, when I think of Paul, I think of someone who was very, very convincing when he spoke and shared about his faith.  He helped many, many people become followers of Jesus Christ throughout his ministry.

     Even as a prisoner in chains, he shared his faith with King Agrippa.  And it sounds like King Agrippa is a little surprised by what Paul is telling him because he responds by asking him, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?”

     Paul, known for his quick wit and ability to think on his feet responds, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am – except for these chains.”

     And this is where the conversation ends. Agrippa wasn’t fully persuaded to become a follower of Jesus.

     Over the next several weeks, we’re going to focus on the topic, “What does it mean to be fully persuaded to become a follower of Jesus Christ?” “What does it mean to be fully committed to Jesus Christ?” 

     Being fully committed is how we build up our faith which is the name of this series. What does it mean to be faith builders? We’re going to talk about the importance of building up our faith through prayer, reading the Bible, attending weekly worship, sharing our faith, offering our gifts, and serving.

     If I had to list the foundational components in being a committed follower of Jesus, these six things would definitely be at the top of the list. It’s hard to imagine being a follower of Jesus without making these six things a priority in our lives.

     But before we even begin to focus on these six things, let’s first ask ourselves where we are in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

     I have shared with you about how I made a recommitment of my life to Jesus Christ when I was in college.  That new commitment to Christ had such an impact on my life, that it changed everything for me. 

     It gave me hope because I was going through a low point of my life. It gave me comfort because I knew that with Christ in my life, I wasn’t alone anymore. It gave me assurance because I knew that nothing could ever separate me from God’s love.

     Because of this positive change in my life, I wanted to share my faith with others. One of the people I shared my faith with was a friend I knew in college. On Mondays before class, he would tell me about how he drank too much over the weekend.

     During our conversations, I told him about my new commitment to Christ and I invited him to a bible study. He came to those bible studies and I could tell that God was working on him.  Even though he continued to drink on weekends, he started asking me questions about the bible and faith. I would ask him if he wanted to make a commitment to follow Christ, and he kept telling me that he wasn’t ready for that, but at least he kept attending the bible study.

     One day, he totally surprised me by saying, “I want you to know that I finally invited Jesus Christ into my life. I’m going to put him first in everything I do.” And I could tell that he meant what he said. He stopped his heavy drinking on the weekends and he started going to church. He began reading the bible every morning and he was constantly asking me questions about the Christian faith.

     He ended up going to seminary and becoming a pastor. We still keep in touch through facebook.  Making a commitment to Jesus Christ is where it all begins.

     Those of you who follow golf, you might know the name of Rik Massengale who was a tour pro during the 70s and early 80s. Rik admits that early in his career, golf was his god. This not only caused him inner turmoil, but it also created marriage problems.

     His wife decided to file for divorce. But before the divorce was finalized, they had a long talk. They decided to attend the Tour Bible Study. The guest speaker happened to be Billy Graham, who was playing in the pro-am of the Kemper Open that year.

     Billy Graham made a statement that really stuck with Rik that day. He said, “Christianity is not a religion; it is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Rik had grown up in church and assumed that being a Christian just meant attending church. He was honest enough to admit that he didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

     Through the guidance of a friend, Rik found out how he could begin this new relationship with Christ. He and his wife both made a commitment to put Christ first in their marriage.

     Rik says, “I didn’t experience an overnight change, but over the next six to eight months, I realized that God was making significant changes in my life.” Rick went on to serve as the director of College Golf Fellowship, a Christian ministry to college golfers and coaches.

     When we make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ, like Rik, we might not experience an overnight change, but over time, we will find that we are becoming more and more like him. 

     In our Galatians scripture reading, we find the Fruit of the Spirit which consists of these wonderful character traits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Over time, this is what the Holy Spirit can do in our lives. By making a commitment to Christ, we become more like Christ.

     I am excited about what a difference Jesus Christ can make in our lives. I am also excited about what Christ is going to do in our lives and in our church over these next several weeks through this faith builders series.

     Making a commitment can be challenging. We often need to be fully persuaded before we finally decide to make something a priority in our lives.

     Like the time when I read an article about how too much sugar isn’t good for you. This was when I was serving a church in Lancaster. I already knew that but this particular article traced sugar to several potential medical problems.

     After I read that article, I told Penny that I was going to stop eating anything with sugar in it. And I must admit that I got off to a good start. A couple of days went by. No sugar. My personal commitment was to not have any more sugar for the rest of my life and I remember being so proud of myself for making it to day 3.

     I think it was that 3rd day that I attended a meal at the church. One of the bakers in the church who didn’t know about my no sugar commitment brought out a big tray of several dessert options to my table. Lemon meringue, coconut cream, cherry. Friends, I’m not bragging, but I won that victory and survived day 3. “Get behind me Satan!”

     Long story short. I also survived day 4, day 5, day 6, day 7, day 8. And then day 9 came along. Day 9.

     A member of my church had a 90th birthday party that was held at the church. When I arrived, a member of that family made a bee line for me and said, “Pastor Robert, you have to get a piece of this double chocolate cake. It’s my dad’s favorite. Just look at that chocolate icing. This cake was made by a special friend.”

     Again, not bragging, but remembering my commitment, I politely declined. The person who was offering me the cake thought I was kidding and gave me a piece anyway. 

     Friends, I actually set that cake back on the counter. Yeah, not bragging, but…

     So far, so good. Day 10. Day 11. Day 12. 

     I think it was around day 30 when Penny and I made a day trip down to Athens. She said, “let’s stop at Larry’s and get something to eat.”

     We were looking at the big menu and my loving, supportive wife said, “Hey look. They have butterscotch milkshakes, your favorite!”

     Friends, that was the day that my sugar fast ended. For Adam and Eve, it was an apple. For me, it was a butterscotch milkshake. 

     I share this story with you to say that it’s not easy to keep our commitments, but on the other hand, because I made a commitment, I surprised myself by lasting a whole month. Commitments really do matter.

     And the same is true in our faith. Just because we don’t always keep our commitments doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make commitments. They can help us to keep moving forward and when we stumble, we get back up again and keep striving toward our goal.

     John Wesley, the founder of Methodism called this process, “moving onto perfection in this life.”

     So, for this first Sunday, our commitment is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ where we put him first in our life in the best way we know how.

     To help us with this first commitment in our Faith Builder’s series, up on the screen are some choices for us to consider. I’m going to give us time to think about these choices and which one we would like to be our commitment in this area. I’ve asked Jeff to play some music for the next minute or so as we silently make our commitment to God.

     Here are some options if you decide to not make a commitment to Jesus Christ at this point. 

• No, today, I am not ready to make a commitment.

• No, but maybe someday.

• And here are a couple of options if you have or want to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. Yes, beginning today, I   

        want to be a follower of Jesus Christ. 

• A second option is Yes, I am already a follower of Christ but I want to be an even more devoted follower of Him.

     I’ve asked Jeff to play some music for the next minute or so as we silently make our commitment to God.

     If you chose yes as one of the options, I’d like us to join together in saying this commitment of faith in having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s up on the screen.

     “Jesus is my guiding light, my compass, my lighthouse. I will ask the Lord for that ‘peace that passes all understanding.’ I will strive for my speech and behavior to please the Lord. I will strive for my attitudes, values, and thoughts to please the Lord. I will be passionate about the Lord as the priority of my life. I will strive to be able to explain clearly what I believe and why. I look forward to having a constant awareness of the Lord’s presence. I will strive for others to see Christ in my life, words, and actions. At each major decision of my life, I will ask, ‘What would Jesus have me do?’ I will invite the Lord to be at the center of all of my relationships. I will allow Christ to love others through me, even those who are different from me.”

Faith Builders: Committing

Sermon Discussion Questions

Acts 26:27-31 & Galatians 5:22-24

September 15, 2019

We’re beginning a new series on the theme, “Faith Builders.” We will be looking at several areas of our spiritual lives that are meant to build up our faith. Without making a commitment in these important areas, it can be really difficult to have a strong faith. These areas include praying, reading, worshiping, sharing, giving, and serving. We begin this series by focusing on the importance of the word, “committing.”

What comes to your mind when you think of the word, “commitment?”

In our Acts scripture reading, the Apostle Paul is on trial in front of King Agrippa. After Paul shares his faith in Christ with him, Agrippa responds with the question, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?” Agrippa was willing to listen to Paul talk about his faith but he remained unconvinced.

Share some reasons why people today, like King Agrippa might not be ready to make a commitment in being a follower of Christ.

Pastor Robert shared the story of Rik Massengale, a professional golfer who was making golf his “god” in life. His marriage was not working out and he went to a bible study that talked about making a commitment in being a follower of Jesus. He decided to go all in and made a commitment to do just that. Rik says that it wasn’t an overnight change, but over the course of the next several months in living out his commitment, he began to experience a transformation in his life and in his marriage. He became the Director of College Golf Fellowship.

Do you know of other examples of people who have made a commitment to Jesus Christ and experienced a transformed life?

For this first week of our Faith Builders series, we are invited to consider making a commitment in one or more of the following ways. Read over this list of commitment options and if you feel comfortable, share with others about the commitment you have decided to make during our Faith Builders focus.

  • No, today, I am not ready to make a commitment.
  • No, but maybe someday.

      And here are a couple of options if you have or want to make a commitment to Jesus Christ:

  • Yes, beginning today, I want to be a follower of Jesus Christ. 
  • A second option is Yes, I am already a follower of Christ but I want to be an even more devoted follower of Him.

     If you chose yes as one of the options, say this commitment of faith statement as you begin your journey with Christ:

     “Jesus is my guiding light, my compass, my lighthouse. I will ask the Lord for that ‘peace that passes all understanding.’ I will strive for my speech and behavior to please the Lord. I will strive for my attitudes, values, and thoughts to please the Lord. I will be passionate about the Lord as the priority of my life. I will strive to share my faith with others. I look forward to having a constant awareness of the Lord’s presence. I will strive for others to see Christ in my life, words, and actions. At each major decision of my life, I will ask, ‘What would Jesus have me do?’ I will invite the Lord to be at the center of all of my relationships. I will be open to how God wants to use me to bless others.”


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